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- Three-dimensional structure of the glycine-betaine transporter BetP by cryo electron crystallography (2008)
- The soil bacterium Corynebacterium glutamicum has five secondary transporters for compatible solutes allowing it to cope with osmotic stress. The most abundant of them, the transporter BetP, performs a high affinity uptake of glycine-betain when encountering hyperosmotic stress. BetP belongs to the betaine/carnitine/choline/transporter (BCCT) family, and is predicted to have twelve transmembrane helices with both termini facing the cytoplasm. The goal of this thesis is to facilitate understanding of BetP function by determining a three dimensional (3D) model of its structure. Two-dimensional (2D) crystallization of wild-type (WT) BetP has been successfully performed by reconstitution into a mixture of E. coli lipids and bovine cardiolipin, which resulted in vesicular crystals diffracting to 7.5 Å resolution (Ziegler, Morbach et al. 2004). Diffraction patterns of these crystals however showed unfocused spots, generally due to high mosaicity. Better results were obtained by using the constitutively active mutant BetPdeltaC45 in which the first 45 amino acids of the positively charged C-terminus were removed. BetPdeltaC45 crystals obtained under the same conditions for BetP WT were concluded to be pseudo crystals, based on the inconsistence of symmetry. These crystals had BetPdeltaC45 molecules randomly up/downwards inserted into membrane crystals, and cannot be used for structure determination, even though they diffracted up to 7 Å. The problem of pseudo crystal formation could be solved by changing the lipids used for 2D crystallization to a native lipid extract from C. glutamicum cells. This change of lipids improved the crystals to well-ordered packing with exclusive p121_b symmetry. To understand the role of lipids in crystal packing and order, lipids were extracted at different stages during crystallization, and identified by using multiple precursor ion scanning mass spectrometry. The results show that phosphatidyl glycerol (PG) 16:0-18:1 is the most dominant lipid species in C. glutamicum membranes, and that BetP has a preference for the fatty acid moieties 16:0-18:1. Crystallization with synthetic PG 16:0-18:1 proved that an excess of this lipid prevents pseudo crystal formation, but these crystals did not reach the quality as previously achieved by using the C. glutamicum lipids. Apart from the effect of lipids in crystallinity, the concentration and type of salts influenced crystal growth and morphology. High salt conditions (>400 mM LiCl or KCl) yielded tubular crystals, whereas low salt conditions (<300 mM LiCl, NaCl or KCl) led to formation of up to 10 µm large sheet-like crystals. The intermediate concentration gave a mixture of sheet-like and tubular crystals. In terms of resolution, sheets diffracted better than tubes. The sheet-like crystals used for 3D map reconstruction were obtained from a dialysis buffer containing 200 mM NaCl combined with using C. glutamicum lipids. Electron microscopic images were taken from frozen-hydrated crystals using a helium-cooled JEOL 300 SFF microscope or a liquid nitrogen-cooled FEI Tecnai G2 microscope at 300 kV, which allowed optimal data collection and minimized radiation damage to the sample. More than 1000 images of tilt angles up to 50° were taken and evaluated using optical diffraction of a laser beam. The best 200 images were processed with the MRC image processing software package, and 79 images from different tilt angles were merged to the final data set used for calculation of a 3D map at a planar resolution of 8 Å. The structure shows BetPdeltaC45 as a trimer with each monomer consisting of 12 transmembrane alpha-helices. Protein termini and loop regions could not be determined due to the limited resolution of the map. Six of the twelve helices line a central cavity forming a potential substrate-binding chamber. Each monomer shows a central cavity in different sizes and shapes. Thus, the constitutively active BetPdeltaC45 thus forms an unusual asymmetric homotrimer. BetP most likely reflects three different conformational states of secondary transporters: the cytoplasmically open (C), the occluded (O), and the periplasmically open (P) states. The C and O states are similar to BetP WT projection structure, while the P state is discrepant and highly flexible due to the shape and size of the central cavity as well as the lowest intensity of the density. The observation of the P state corresponds well to the constitutively active property of BetPdeltaC45. For the high resolution structure of the C and O states are available, this work presents the first structural information of the P state of a secondary transporter.
- Mechanisms of energy transfer and conversion in plant light-harvesting complex II (2009)
- The light-harvesting complex of photosystem II (LHC-II) is the major antenna complex in plant photosynthesis. It accounts for roughly 30% of the total protein in plant chloroplasts, which makes it arguably the most abundant membrane protein on Earth, and binds about half of plant chlorophyll (Chl). The complex assembles as a trimer in the thylakoid membrane and binds a total of 54 pigment molecules, including 24 Chl a, 18 Chl b, 6 lutein (Lut), 3 neoxanthin (Neo) and 3 violaxanthin (Vio). LHC-II has five key roles in plant photosynthesis. It: (1) harvests sunlight and transmits excitation energy to the reaction centres of photosystems II and I, (2) regulates the amount of excitation energy reaching each of the two photosystems, (3) has a structural role in the architecture of the photosynthetic supercomplexes, (4) contributes to the tight appression of thylakoid membranes in chloroplast grana, and (5) protects the photosynthetic apparatus from photo damage by non photochemical quenching (NPQ). A major fraction of NPQ is accounted for its energy-dependent component qE. Despite being critical for plant survival and having been studied for decades, the exact details of how excess absorbed light energy is dissipated under qE conditions remain enigmatic. Today it is accepted that qE is regulated by the magnitude of the pH gradient (ΔpH) across the thylakoid membrane. It is also well documented that the drop in pH in the thylakoid lumen during high-light conditions activates the enzyme violaxanthin de-epoxidase (VDE), which converts the carotenoid Vio into zeaxanthin (Zea) as part of the xanthophyll cycle. Additionally, studies with Arabidopsis mutants revealed that the photosystem II subunit PsbS is necessary for qE. How these physiological responses switch LHC-II from the active, energy transmitting to the quenched, energy-dissipating state, in which the solar energy is not transmitted to the photosystems but instead dissipated as heat, remains unclear and is the subject of this thesis. From the results obtained during this doctoral work, five main conclusions can be drawn concerning the mechanism of qE: 1. Substitution of Vio by Zea in LHC-II is not sufficient for efficient dissipation of excess excitation energy. 2. Aggregation quenching of LHC-II does not require Vio, Neo nor a specific Chl pair. 3. With one exception, the pigment structure in LHC-II is rigid. 4. The two X-ray structures of LHC-II show the same energy transmitting state of the complex. 5. Crystalline LHC-II resembles the complex in the thylakoid membrane. Models of the aggregation quenching mechanism in vitro and the qE mechanism in vivo are presented as a corollary of this doctoral work. LHC-II aggregation quenching in vitro is attributed to the formation of energy sinks on the periphery of LHC-II through random interaction with other trimers, free pigments or impurities. A similar but unrelated process is proposed to occur in the thylakoid membrane, by which excess excitation energy is dissipated upon specific interaction between LHC-II and a PsbS monomer carrying Zea. At the end of this thesis, an innovative experimental model for the analysis of all key aspects of qE is proposed in order to finally solve the qE enigma, one of the last unresolved problems in photosynthesis research.